January 16, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend,

What a great day! As of this morning, life is getting back to normal... for me, at least. I loved the chance to chase my kids' kids around for the last 30 days... but, they're back into their routines now, so it's time for mine. I've really missed those TSA folks...

Cheri and I tried to get some relaxed-time diversions, during the break. Movies? We caught Narnia on Christmas Day afternoon, but that was about it. Too much cinema with too much controversy, it seemed. We're both into cowboy flicks, but when the wranglers get romantic, I'll pass. Cheri's holding out for the one we saw in the "coming attractions" trailers, on Christmas...

It's one of those "based on a true story" epics, set in Antarctica. Think Old Yeller with snowshoes; it's about a scientific expedition that got into trouble, had to be evacuated... and left their dogsled team behind. Incredible Journey, with frostbite: the "hero" is the guy who led the effort to go back and get 'em, months later. In my marriage, that will be the next premier that gets the nod...

In fact, Cheri's Dream List includes a vacation experience that will put her behind the sled as the musher; runnin' on dogpower instead of horsepower. I'll go along to make it happen; in fact, the metaphor will be - for me - worth the trip.

James Clash writes for Forbes; his specialty is Adventure Travel. December 26th, he wrote about a trip that put him north of the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter, where he got around via dogsled. He found out that those athletes up-front are very carefully positioned: "The dogs are naturally suited for different positions within the pack, and it is evident where, even when the dogs are pups. Lead dogs tend to be the most adventurous; middle dogs are the introverts; and the dogs closest to the sled are the strongest..." There it is: did you spot that metaphor slipping by?

The lead dogs don't pull their weight: they're out there in front, setting direction for the whole shebang. They're pretty fearless and the dogs behind them trust them and where they're taking them. Those lead dogs respond to voice commands: "Haw" is a left-turn; "Gee" goes right. Mostly, they "follow their nose," and the musher (human) lets 'em. If they go too fast, the weight of the sled falls on their shoulders; they've learned to lead... while hangin' back just enough to keep the tension on the dogs next to the sled.

The strongest dogs aren't the leaders... but the leaders last longer. They're there to bring the other dogs along; the ones in the back are there to pull the weight. Both - the team, and the team leader - are critical to the mission.

Man's Best Friend has that in common with man: the leaders don't really "pull their own weight," but they're essential to the followers who pull all the weight.

In the great Iditarod called "the Kingdom," where are you harnessed? If you're one of those up-front players - listening for the "Haw" or the "Gee," but mostly scopin' out the horizon and setting a course - how can you fine-tune your leadership, to ensure a winning performance? Are you even in the race?

It's the time of year when we - at The Master's Program - are staging Executive Briefings, to introduce Christians who are leaders to the TMP experience. This weekly column grows out of our ongoing work with people who belong up there, in front of the pack, setting the pace and leading the way.

The Iditarod is 1150 miles of ice and snow; your lifetime in the Kingdom race is +27,375 days of peaks and valleys. It ends at a finish line called "The Judgment Seat of Christ." For the dogs in the back, the question will be: "How well did you follow your leader?" For the dogs up front, the question: "How well did you lead your followers?" Preparing an answer for that question is life's greatest assignment.

Is it time for you to think about training for that race, and refining your strategies for the competition? Click on www.masters program.org and take a look at those Executive Briefing opportunities, on the right side of the home page. The race is on: are you layin' by the fire... or makin' tracks along the route?

Bob Shank

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